April 11, 2001
Thoughts on the Preparation of Lab Reports

Quite frankly, nothing has disturbed me as much since my arrival at U. Constance as some of the lab reports that I have received from those of you who took the Vertiefungskurs "Nucleic Acids Chemistry", last semester.

So, I would like to expand on the guidelines provided in my memorandum of February 2, 2001 (
Here are the most important thoughts:

-  Your lab report has to show clearly that you performed the experiment.  It has to state the quantities you used, the identity (and preferably also the purity) of the reagents used, the yield obtained, and the characterization data.  (For example, you cannot report a DNA synthesis without giving the sequence prepared, the identity of the reagents, and the trityl signals obtained.)  A protocol where this information is lacking is unacceptable and will have to be redone, if necessary by redoing the experiment. 

-  It is unnecessary to provide general introductions to experiments or techniques.  Just provide the protocol, following the guidelines given in my earlier memo.  I do know how DNA synthesis works, and so do the teaching assistants.  You do not need to spell it out again beyond giving the equations for the reactions performed by you.

-  Avoid producing a protocol via "copy and paste".  I do not find it entertaining to see the graphics from the handout copied and glued into the report.  Please draw the reaction equation yourself.  As stated before, you can draw it by hand (assuming you have a legible handwriting), so this will not cost an unreasonable amount of time.  Copying or just translating the general information provided in the handout will not be accepted.

-  The discussion of your result is one of the more important parts of your report.  If your yield was lower than expected, provide an explanation.  If a compound shows other properties than expected (higher or lower melting point, for example), discuss this finding.  If you do not discuss your results, I will get the impression that you just did the experiment mechanically and did not understand what you were doing.

-  Please provide your reports by the deadline given.  Right now (two months after the lab), I still have only one acceptable report from a total of seven students.

-  If you are not used to the format appropriate for reporting the results of synthetic work, please consult any textbook on this subject matter.  One example is:  R.K. Müller, R. Keese, Grundoperationen der präparativen organischen Chemie, Juris Verlag, Zürich, 1988, Seiten 115-118 (bei mir einzusehen).

Thank you and good luck.

Clemens Richert